Date of Award


Level of Access Assigned by Author

Open-Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Although sketches of the life of Mary Hayden Green Pike appear in Appletons1 Cyclopaedia of American Biography and in the Dictionary of American Biography, an extended study of her life and works has not been written. Whatever the cause of her obscurity, her popularity as a novelist of the "feminine fifties," her enthusiasm for the abolitionist cause, and her value as a propagandist seem to merit more than literary oblivion.

Mary Hayden Green Pike, a pre-Civil War novelist of Calais, Maine, was one of the more popular writers to follow in the wake of Harriet Beecher Stowe. Deeply concerned with the moral issue of the slavery question, she visited the South, where she made close observation of the slavery system. Confirmed in her anti-slavery views by this visit, she was further encouraged by her husband, Frederick A. Pike (1817-1886), a Congressman, by his friends Hamlin and Blaine, and by her brother-in-law, James Shepherd Pike, Washington correspondent and associate editor of the New York Tribune 1850-1860, and United States Minister to the Netherlands 1861-1866.

Mrs. Pike's three novels were written in the sentimental and melodramatic style of the women writers of the 1850' Her first novel, Ida May, a Story of Things Actual and possible published in 1854 under the pseudonym of Mary Langdon, was extremely popular, and probably helped to strengthen the deep impression made by Uncle Tom1s Cabin, first published serially in the„National Era 1851-1852. Ida May’ s popularity was due chiefly to its theme, and Mrs. Pike, like Mrs. Stowe, did not write another novel to equal her first in selling value. Her second novel, Caste, A Story of Republican Equality, by "Sydney A. Story, Jr.," dealt with the problems of racial discrimination, particularly that of miscegenation, and was not so popular as her first. Agnes, Mrs. Pike’s third and last novel, a romance set in the American Revolutionary period, was least popular of the three works, perhaps because the subject matter was less timely. After Agnes Mrs. Pike gave up writing and continued her activities in charitable organizations and in the Baptist church, of which she was an enthusiastic member. She also did still life and landscape painting.

In her own day and even later Mrs. Pike was confused with the writer of a song entitled "Ida May," with contemporary Pike women authors, among them her sister-in-law and her niece, and with an English novelist, Emily Jolly, who also wrote a Caste.

Mrs. Pike should be considered in the light of the times in which she wrote. Her style is that of other popular feminine novelists of the mid-nineteenth century. As a strong supporter of the anti-slavery cause, she deserves mention in American literary history.